Why don’t more dads take parental leave? It’s a question that most exhausted mothers will ponder at some point in those first months of parenthood. As they pace back and forth at midnight with a tiny squalling baby in their arms, they wonder … why am I doing this alone?
It’s a good question – and one that Australian musician and father of two boys, Josh Pyke talks about in the first episode of Babyology’s new podcast, The Dad Kit. Sitting down with host, Sean Szeps, Josh shares his experience of being really present in the day-to-day lives of his two young sons.
Listen to Josh Pyke on The Dad Kit:
On my own: the way we parent today
Despite the fact that we are all happy to acknowledge that it takes a village to raise a tribe, today’s reality is very different for most families. In fact, argues Josh, we are more likely to insist we can do this alone …
“There’s a lot more pressure. Mothers spend more time with their kids now than they did in the ’50s, when most mothers were stay at home mums … It’s like you’re expected to be the best parent, you’re also expected to be the best partner, and also the best worker. And all of these things have to be mutually inclusive. And that’s tough – and it definitely leads to people feeling inadequate most of the time.”
So what is the solution? Josh thinks it’s a more even split in the day-to-day parenting duties.
“I’m fortunate. For both kids, I made the decision to not tour for four or five months when they were first around,” Josh says. “I’m around a lot … my kids, when they think of me, they wouldn’t think of me as a musician or a performer. They would think of me as the guy that is picking them up and taking them to swim class and stuff, which is great.”
Getting down into the nitty-gritty, he explains further: “Everybody makes sacrifices. My wife definitely made sacrifices with her career as well. You just balance those sacrifices. My wife was able to work from home a couple of days, so we negotiated that she would do Monday to Wednesday in the office and then home Thursdays and Fridays. And I’d generally tour from Thursday to Sunday, so we’d just split it down the middle. I’m on pick ups and drop offs in the first half of the week. So I’ve been at home a lot with my kids and it’s been an absolute blessing and a joy.”
It’s a guy thing
Josh grew up certain that he wanted to have children; he always assumed he would have kids – but when he was one of the first in his friendship group to become a parent, the lack of support and interest from his male friends shocked him.
“I feel like there is a thing with guys that they just can’t really understand what somebody is going through until they’ve experienced it themselves – I think that’s a particularly male attribute,” Josh explains. “And of course, the reality of having kids – as everybody knows who has kids – is just not at all the way you think it’s going to be. Even if you’ve read all the books and witnessed other people having children, your unique experience of parenthood is just nothing like it.
“I felt like my friends were pretty uninvolved. And I was kind of criticised too, that I was taking my priorities as a father too seriously.”
Enter the poo diary
“My wife describes me as a Max Cappa – which is maximum capacity at all times,” Josh says. “So I wanted to approach parenthood with that similar attitude, like if I was going be a dad, I wanted to be a great dad.”
What do you do when you’re an anxious first-time father, keen to be the very best dad ever? If you’re anything like Josh Pyke, you try and get a bit of control over the rollercoaster that is parenting a newborn. “I remember putting [my son] in the car seat on the way home from the hospital, and just going, ‘Somebody needs to come and check that I’m doing this right’.”
The responsibility seemed overwhelming in those early days. “My way of wresting some kind of control back was to keep a very specific diary,” Josh explains. “I kept track of all of Archie’s poos, wees and breastfeeds for probably three or four months.
“I just needed something that I could look at and go, this is OK. I know that this child can physically survive from this amount of water because I’ve checked on it. I know that my child will survive if they do X amount of poos and wees. I know as long as that’s happening, I’m good. And that was basically how I got through it.”
He does add with a wry laugh, “But my wife, at the time was like, ‘This is crazy, man!'”